- From the next academic session, the Paika rebellion of 1817 will be placed in the history books as ‘the First War of Independence’.
- So far, Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 has been regarded as the First War of Indian Independence.
- The Paika Bidroha (Paika Rebellion) of 1817 in Odisha briefly shook the foundations of British rule in the eastern part of India.
Who were Paikas?
- They were the peasant militias of the Gajapati rulers of Odisha.
- During the times of war, they used to render military services to the king and during the peace time they used to perform cultivation.
- Khurda is the region at Odhisha’s coast which was capital of the rulers there for a long time. The current capital city of Bhubaneswar is located in this district.
- Rulers of Khurda were traditionally the custodians of Jagannath Temple and ruled as the deputy of Lord Jagannath on earth.
- They symbolised the political and cultural freedom of the people of Odisha.
- British occupation and Paika rebellion:
- The British occupied Odisha in 1803.
- The Paikas were alienated by the British regime, who took over the hereditary rent-free lands granted to them, after the conquest of Khurda.
- They were also subjected to extortion and oppression at the hands of the company government and its servants.
- Thus, Paikas rebelled against the British.
Leader of the Rebellion:
- The Gajapati King of Odisha, Mukunda Deva-ll was a minor then.
- The initial resistance to the British was given by Jai Rajguru (the custodian of Mukunda Deva-II) but he was brutally killed.
- A few years later, it was the Paikas under Baxi Jagabandhu (the hereditary chief of the militia army of the Gajapati King) who rose in rebellion, taking support of tribals and other sections of society. The rebellion started in March 1817 and spread quickly.
- Though Paikas played a larger role in the rebellion against the British, it was by no means a rebellion by a small group of people belonging to a particular class.
- The tribals of Ghumusar (part of present day Ganjam and Kandhmal Districts) and other sections of the population actively took part in it.
- In fact, the Paika Bidroha got the opportune moment to spread when 400 tribals of Ghumsar entered Khurda protesting against the British rule.
- The Paikas attacked British symbols of power, setting ablaze police stations, administrative offices and the treasury during their march towards Khurda, from where the British fled.
- The Paikas were supported by the rajas of Kanika, Kujang, Nayagarh and Ghumusar and zamindars, village heads and ordinary peasants.
- The rebellion quickly spread to Purl, Pipli Cuttack and other parts of the province.
- The British were initially taken aback and then tried to regain lost ground but faced stiff resistance from the rebelling Paikas.
- In many battles rebellions were victories but the British finally managed to defeat them within three months.
- There was a widespread suppression followed by many killings and imprisonments.
- Some rebels fought the guerilla war till 1819 but later they were captured and killed.
- Baxi Jagabandhu was finally arrested in 1825 and died in captivity in 1829.
Section : History & Culture